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Letter to the House Opposing the Smart Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911)

May 23, 2013

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge you to VOTE NO on the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911). Votes associated with this bill may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card on the 113th Congress. 

NEA is opposed to the bill because we are concerned that H.R. 1911 will cause student loans to be excessively burdensome to college students leading to crushing debt as they enter the workforce.  H.R. 1911 would change the current subsidized federal student loan programs to a variable interest rate instead of a fixed interest rate.  These variable rates could lead to higher borrowing costs for students and increase the likelihood of default, in addition to making budgeting for loan repayment difficult.  We were hopeful that work in the committee would prevent the doubling of interest rates; unfortunately H.R. 1911 is not that path and could result in rates being more than double the current interest rate.  Further, we have concerns about proposals, such as H.R. 1911, that seek profits for deficit reduction at the expense of students struggling to address the substantial costs of postsecondary education. 

Efforts to help students and families keep college cost low are essential given that:

  • Approximately 60% of students must borrow to attend college and increasing the costs of borrowing will simply prevent some from being able to pursue higher education.
  • Adding to their student loan debt burden will not only harm students, but will impact our economy, as those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses or support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth. 
  • Last year the total amount of borrowing eclipsed the $1 trillion mark.  Of our nation’s 37 million students with outstanding debt, 35% are behind on their loans; a number which will only grow with the cost of borrowing. 

Though we oppose the passage of this bill, we commend the inclusion in H.R. 1911 of a cap on the proposed variable rate.  It is an important provision to ensure that students are protected from exceedingly high interest rates. 

Again, we urge you to VOTE NO on this bill and to work toward a bill that will ensure college affordability for our nation’s students.  In lieu of passage of HR 1911, we urge the House of Representatives to take a critical interim step in passing an extension of the current interest rates before July 1st.  Therefore, we will be able to address the full range of issues related to student aid as a component of a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations